Books featuring a sibling with a mental illness

Mini Book Reviews: August 2021

I didn’t post on my blog last Monday and I’ve been feeling so guilty about it! I wanted to stick to the habit of posting every Monday and I had until now. To make it a little easier to start again, I’m going with a couple of mini reviews: one fiction and one memoir.

Where the Past Begins (memoir)

Author: Amy Tan
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Harper Collins (2017)

By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels…”

I don’t think there are enough words for how much I loved this memoir. I borrowed it from the library but I think I’ll have to invest in a copy of my own. Although Amy Tan didn’t directly give writing advice in the book, there is so much to learn from her experiences!

I enjoyed and related to this book not just as a writer but as a fellow child pf a parent with a mental illness (COPMI). Amy Tan candidly described her mother’s anger and challenging behaviours, such as the incident (also recounted in Tan’s Netflix documentary) where she tried to throw herself out of their moving car while Amy and her brother were in the back seat.

You don’t have to be a writer to be affected by this memoir. You just have to be human.

You can buy a copy of Where the Past Begins from Readings independent booksellers.

The Lovers’ Guide to Rome (fiction)

Author: Mark Lamprell
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin (2016)

Young artist Alice has come to Rome for adventure and inspiration before settling down with her safe boyfriend, Daniel. Is there such a thing as love at first sight and how will she know if it’s happening to her? Middle-aged Meg and Alec have come to Rome to rekindle their love affair, which has faded over the years as they’ve become busy parents and successful businesspeople. Constance and Lizzie are here to scatter the ashes of Constance’s beloved husband Henry, who’s also Lizzie’s brother. But Lizzie doesn’t know the real story of how Constance and Henry met decades ago in Rome, and what secrets their trip back there will uncover.”

This one was a gift from my mum because she knows I adore Italy and can’t wait until it’s safe enough to go back. I’m not generally a romance reader, so I can’t offer the most comprehensive thoughts on this one.

However, I did enjoy that it was narrated in first person by a personification of the spirit of Rome. The alternating perspectives also kept things interesting. In terms of the prose, there was a sense of reverence for Rome and on a micro level,  a lot of alliteration which I enjoyed at the beginning but grew tired of as the novel went on.

If you’re looking for some light reading and escapism and you want to pretend that you’re living the tourist life in Italy, this novel is for you.

You can buy a copy of The Lovers’ Guide to Rome from Booktopia.

Thanks for reading these mini reviews. As I write this, my state is in lockdown. I hope that you’re as safe as possible as you read it.

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